Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 4, 2023

Russia closes in on Ukrainian city of Bakhmut after months of fighting, North Korea blames U.S. for state of international arms control, and more


Russia closes in on Ukrainian city of Bakhmut after months of fighting

Russian forces on Friday continued to encircle the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, as Russia inches closer to what would be its first significant victory in the country in nearly six months. Despite the military closing in on the besieged city in recent weeks, Ukrainian fighters have been largely able to hold Russia to the perimeter of Bakhmut. However, a renewed round of artillery on Friday destroyed the few remaining roads out of the city, and by the end of the day, there was reportedly only a single route out of Bakhmut for Ukrainian troops. Despite this, soldiers were seen continuing to dig trenches for defensive positions as Russians moved in, likely signaling that fighting over the city will continue. 


North Korea blames U.S. for state of international arms control

North Korea on Saturday blamed the United States for what it said was the collapse of international arms control, saying the U.S. was at fault for the worsening of international relations. In a statement from the hermit nation's state-run KCNA news agency, the North Korean foreign ministry said that the Korean peninsula was "turning into the world's biggest powderkeg and war practice field due to a military expansion scheme led by the United States and its followers," adding that the increased nuclearization of Pyongyang was a response to the actions of the U.S. The country pointed to the recent militarization of the U.S. in the area, along with Japanese and South Korean allies who have been conducting military exercises. 


Utah governor says he will sign statewide abortion clinic ban

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) said Friday that he would sign legislation that would ban abortion clinics from operating in his state. Cox's pledge comes after the Utah state Senate passed legislation that would effectively outlaw the clinics, meaning that hospitals would be the only place where a woman would be able to get a legal abortion. Cox, often considered one of the most moderate Republican governors in the country, said that the legislation would also address the legal definition of abortion, placating concerns among healthcare providers that "there was a lack of clarity that would have made it hard for them to perform legal abortions." 


Philippines says it spotted Chinese naval ship near disputed island

The Philippines said Saturday that it had spotted a Chinese naval ship off the coast of a Philippine-occupied island in the South China Sea. The country's Coast Guard said that the ship was seen in the vicinity of Thitu Island, along with dozens of militia vessels believed to be manned by Chinese naval personnel. Thitu is notably the country's most important and strategic island outpost in the South China Sea, but Chinese officials have continually asserted that the territory within the sea belongs to Beijing. The two countries have often sparred over the island, and Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. previously said that his nation would "not lose an inch" of island territory in the region. 


Arizona governor says she will not proceed with previously scheduled execution

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) said Friday that the state would not proceed with the execution of prisoner Aaron Gunches. Gunches was previously convicted of a 2002 murder and sentenced to death. Despite the objections of both Gunches and the state's attorney general, the Arizona Supreme Court granted a warrant of execution for him based on previous appellate proceedings. However, Hobbs said in a statement that she would not be moving forward with Gunches' scheduled April execution, saying that "the warrant authorizes an execution and does not require it," adding that her decision was "consistent with the law and separation of powers between the judicial and executive branches on this most serious exercise of the power of the State." 


Fire at Indonesian fuel depot kills at least 18

At least 18 people were killed on Friday following a fire at a fuel storage depot in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. The station, which is controlled by Indonesia's state-run energy corporation, Pertamina, burst into flames, with local footage showing smoke billowing from the site and dozens of firefighters responding. The cause of the inferno is still being investigated, and fuel will be temporarily provided to the neighborhood from other depots nearby. Hundreds of nearby residents have been evacuated from the area as the fire continues to burn, and Pertamina CEO Nicke Widyawati pledged to provide treatment to all those who had been affected. 


Former U.S. soldier sentenced to prison for plotting terror attack on his own unit

A former U.S. Army soldier was sentenced on Friday to 45 years in prison for hatching a plot to ignite a terrorist attack against members of his own unit overseas. Eric Melzer, a 24-year-old Kentucky native, pleaded guilty in 2022 to sharing information about an international American military installation with the anti-government, Neo-Nazi-affiliated Order of Nine Angles. According to federal prosecutors, Melzer had intended to launch a terroristic jihadist attack against members of his troop in an effort to undermine American efforts in foreign territories and further the goals of an al Qaeda-based British group that is known for its terrorist activities. 


Suspect indicted in shooting of two Jewish men in Los Angeles

A suspect was indicted Friday on hate crimes and weapons charges for allegedly shooting a pair of Jewish men in Los Angeles in February. Jamie Tran, 28, was charged with two hate crime counts for willfully causing bodily injury and attempting to kill his victims as well as a charge for discharging a weapon, Martin Estrada, the U.S. Attorney of the Central District of California, said in a statement. Prosecutors allege that Tran had shot the two men in a separate pair of incidents in L.A.'s Pico-Robertson neighborhood, known for its heavy Jewish influence. Both of the unidentified victims survived the shootings, and the suspect was arrested days later. The indictment alleged that Tran had a history of making antisemitic statements


Amazon pauses construction of 2nd headquarters

Amazon said Friday that it was pausing construction on its second headquarters in Virginia. John Schoettler, the company's head of real estate, told Bloomberg that the construction was being halted temporarily, but remains committed to finishing the job. The Arlington, Virginia, site will be Amazon's newest headquarters building, but the pause comes as the global shipping conglomerate faces an uncertain economic outlook and has recently slashed more jobs than ever before. Up to 18,000 Amazon workers have been laid off in recent months, but the company has said that it is still looking toward expansion goals. The complex is slated to be completed by 2030, and could hire up to 25,000 employees. 


Tom Sizemore, actor from ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ dies at 61

Tom Sizemore, a prolific actor best known for his role in the 1998 war epic Saving Private Ryan, passed away on Friday at the age of 61. Sizemore's manager confirmed that he "passed away peacefully in his sleep today at St Joseph's Hospital Burbank" with his family by his side. Sizemore had collapsed in mid-February after suffering a stroke that led to a brain aneurysm. He had been in a coma ever since, and his manager eventually released a statement confirming that doctors had given up hope and "have recommended end of life decision" be made by his family. Sizemore was also known for his roles in True Romance, Natural Born Killers, and Passenger 57. 


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